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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Many chilly to idea of topless rights for women [via The Berkshire Eagle]

Voters in Pittsfield, Mass. Tuesday voted down a non-binding referendum urging their state representative to introduce legislation to allow “females of any age may be unclothed from the waist up in public anywhere males may be, including in print and on film.” “I think the intent was to have areas, to have beaches, where people could do it if they wished,” resident Linda Rost said. “But that’s not the way [the question] was worded.” The referendum’s backer has worked previously to designate areas of a local park legal for topless sunbathing, a measure that was defeated by the city council.

1920s chocolate box model deemed to risqué [via The Daily Telegraph]

Betty’s Tea Room is launching a new line of vintage chocolates and wanted to use the woman modeling on the original tin from 90 years ago. What was appropriate in the ’20s, however, is apparently no longer appropriate today, and the company toned down the image for sale. The woman, a brunette, has received extra buttons on her top, smoothed-down hair and what once was a suggestively raised eyebrow is now lowered to normal height.

Coconuts removed in India ahead of Obama visit [via the BBC]

In order to provide maximum security during his visit tomorrow, Mumbai officials have reportedly removed all coconuts from trees around Mani Bhavan, a Gandhi museum, where President Barack Obama will appear. “We told the authorities to remove the dry coconuts from trees near the building. Why take a chance?” Mani Bhavan’s executive secretary, Meghshyam Ajgaonkar, told the BBC.

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Today’s hot topic is President Barack Obama’s half-hour interview last night on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Obama and Stewart discussed the stimulus, the healthcare bill and job creation, all areas the president and Democrats have taken heavy fire. The interview was markedly unhumorous excepting a handful of moments when Stewart prodded the president, as New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley noted.

He did manage to needle Mr. Obama a little, teasingly retorting, “And I don’t mean to lump you in with other presidents.” He even called the president “dude” after the president inadvertently echoed a famous George W. Bush gaffe by saying that his economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, had done “a heck of a job.” Mr. Obama winced ruefully as the audience laughed at his wording and Mr. Stewart said, “You don’t want to use that phrase, dude.”

That one word — “dude” — will probably be the most-discussed part of the whole interview, unfortunately. What did Stewart really mean by it? Does its relaxed usage denigrate the president? Was Stewart trying to create a camaraderie? Was it an innocent moment of informality?

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank says Dudegate is indicative of the president’s position.

Dude. The indignity of a comedy show host calling the commander in chief “dude” pretty well captured the moment for Obama. He was making this first-ever appearance by a president on the Daily Show as part of a long-shot effort to rekindle the spirit of ’08. In the Daily Show, Obama had a friendly host and an even friendlier crowd.

Ironically, Time’s Michael Scherer writes, Stewart got from Obama the sanity he seeks at this weekend’s Rally to Restore Sanity.

What is perhaps most interesting about the whole appearance is what it told us about Obama. When he is up against the wall, his response is a retreat to reason. No big campaign rhetoric, no zinging attacks. He gets more humble, and more professorial, less dynamic. This is, ironically, exactly the kind of “sanity” that Stewart claims to want in the political discussion–a reasonable debate on the issues in which no one gets dinged for a clumsy soundbite. But that is not how television works, especially on Stewart’s show, which specializes in exploiting soundbites. What will be remembered from this appearance are the stumbles, not the sober framework that contained them.

Speaking on ABC this morning, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said Obama’s ‘Daily Show’ appearance will serve to motivate some of his base voters.

“The president is trying to reach out to those who are still undecided and perhaps uninspired about the choices that they face in five days,” Brazile said. “But President Obama is a strong closer, he understands what’s at stake and I believe showing up on Jon Stewart’s show, with over a million viewers, will help the president reach the base that he so critically needs to keep control of the House and Senate.”

Former George W. Bush advisor Nicolle Wallace said the president came across as weak by trying to explain and justify his administrative and legislative actions.

“I think the optics of begging Jon Stewart’s forgiveness and understanding are awful,” she said.

“He didn’t do that, though,” George Stephanopoulos countered.

“Well, I think by making the case, it felt like pandering, like trying to win him over. I thought the optics were terrible,” Wallace replied. “I think this White House needed to appear confident, if for no other reason than to settle the nerves of nervous Democrats who are really suffering from the political consequences of the Obama-Pelosi agenda. These voters are rebuking the Obama agenda and I think what they see as misplaced priorities on stimulus, on healthcare, things that added to the deficit, and a lack of attention on jobs, they have one problem, and, you know, the first step is acknowledging a problem and they seem incapable of doing that.”

George Neumayr, writing in the American Spectator, was extremely critical of Obama’s “ill-advised” choice to appear on the ‘Daily Show.’

At a time of high unemployment, Obama is content to play the empty celebrity, appearing on shows as shallow as his policies and delivering trendy messages about the latest anxiety of the coastal elite — the “gay teen suicide epidemic.”

Neumayr’s reference to gay teen suicides confusingly refers not to Obama’s ‘Daily Show’ appearance, in which the president did not discuss that issue, but rather to a recent three-minute video Obama made for the Trevor Project’s “It Gets Better” campaign.

Neumayr also makes no secret his disdain for Jon Stewart.

While Stewart engages in a lot of cutesy mugging and seemingly self-deprecating humor about such accolades, he takes himself very seriously indeed. His own liberal assumptions are exempt from mocking, and he claims to be deeply pained by “phoniness” at the highest levels of society. Yet somehow this concern about phoniness doesn’t extend to something as basic as his own name, which is not Jon Stewart but Jon Leibowitz, or his own role in high society. The self-proclaimed puncturer of all things phony has a phony name, and the jester has no intention of dropping his mask or reforming his juvenile ways.

Finally, Adam Frucci, writing at Splitsider, argued Stewart would have been better off in this interview without the ecstatic audience.

Having a crowd cheering and clapping, interrupting both Obama and Stewart multiple times, turned what should have been a thoughtful debate into an arena battle. A crowd makes sense for something like a sporting event or a comedy show. You want an audience to provide energy, to react where reactions are warranted.

But the trouble with having a live audience at what is supposed to be a relatively serious discussion is that it forces everything to be dumbed down to soundbites. Any subtlety is removed, as who cheers for a nuanced argument? A crowd wants to cheer for big proclamations, for sweeping statements. …

Just imagine if a show on Fox News had a live studio audience. If every time Sean Hannity mentioned death panels or Obamacare, he got a raucous ovation. It would make something that’s already oversimplified and dumbed down even more so, encouraging pandering and self-congratulation and lowering the level of discourse even further.

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A New York Times article published a little over a year ago suggested that Rahm Emanuel was “emerging as perhaps the most influential White House chief of staff in a generation.”

The article asserted that

As the principal author of Mr. Obama’s do-everything-at-once strategy, he stands to become a figure of consequence in his own right if the administration stabilizes the economy and financial markets, overhauls the health care system and winds down one war while successfully prosecuting another.

If things do not go well — and right now Mr. Obama’s political popularity is declining, his health care legislation is under conservative assault, the budget deficit is at an eye-popping level and Afghanistan remains volatile — it is Mr. Emanuel whose job will be on the line before Mr. Obama’s.

A year later, comprehensive health care legislation has passed and become law, the war in Iraq has been scaled back, operations in Afghanistan have done the opposite, and the economy has stopped its decline. Oh, and Rahm Emanuel is stepping down. Was The New York Times right in suggesting that these policies could risk Emanuel’s job before Obama’s?

Perhaps, but we may never know. The electorate hasn’t backlashed against Emanuel — not that a president’s chief of staff gets elected directly by the people — but neither has Obama. Emanuel stepping down was not a result of Obama’s feelings towards him. Actually, Obama doesn’t seem to want him gone. A few days ago, he had this to say about Emanuel:

I knew that I needed somebody at my side who I could count on day and night to get the job done. [Emanuel] brings an unmatched level of energy and enthusiasm and commitment to every single thing that he does … [He] has exceeded all of my expectations … I will miss him dearly.

Rahm isn’t stepping down because his job is in danger. Apparently, he has a race to win. If things go well for Emanuel, he may be Chicago’s next mayor.

Well, if a backlash didn’t cost Emanuel his job, can we assume the opposite, that all the changes made in the past two years have been taken well? Not quite. Much of the population doesn’t seem knowledgeable, noticeable or appreciative of the benefits of the White House’s accomplishments. Some claim that the economy can’t be stabilizing with unemployment still high, even though those who have declared that the recession is over have said:

Unemployment usually keeps rising well after a recession ends. Four months after the 2007 downturn ended, unemployment spiked to 10.1 percent in October 2009, which was the highest in just over a quarter-century. Some economists believe that marked the high point in joblessness. But others think it could climb higher – perhaps hitting 10.3 percent by early next year.

After the 2001 recession, for instance, unemployment didn’t peak until June 2003 – 19 months later.”

There remains animosity towards the health care legislation, even though most of its effects won’t kick in until 2014. Present increases in health care would have taken place regardless.

Hopefully, for Democrats, the electorate will become more aware or accepting of these facts in time for the mid-term elections. Or, if the Democrats receive the feared trouncing in November, then the White House can hope that come 2012 the electorate will be blaming Republicans again for their problems. Either way, it won’t be Emanuel’s concern. He has new fish to fry.

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Yesterday Senate Democrats failed to garner enough votes to invoke cloture and prevent Republicans from filibustering a defense bill with several liberal riders, including a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Dream Act, which would pave the way for illegal immigrants with college degrees or military service to gain citizenship.

Courtesy of the Boston Globe

The bill was the last real chance Dems had of repealing DADT before the lame duck session or, even worse, the next congress, which could be controlled by the GOP and would therefore likely be hostile toward the measure.

Republicans noted yesterday that their opposition was generally not toward repealing the ban itself, but rather Democrats achieving a repeal by tacking it on to a defense spending bill. John McCain criticized the “blatant and cynical attempt to galvanize the Hispanic vote in regards to the DREAM Act, and also energize the gay and lesbian vote in the case of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’  Obviously we need a defense authorization bill. We need one very badly, and I hope that at some point we’ll address it.”

Gay rights groups, however, have placed plenty of blame on Barack Obama, Politico notes.

“We haven’t noticed any activism on this issue out of the White House at all,” said Alexander Nicholson of Servicemembers United. “It just goes to show what we’ve suspected all along: the White House never supported moving forward on this issue…..and was backed into a corner and jumped on the train as it was leaving the station.”

The New York Times is particularly damning of the 43 senators who voted to filibuster.

The two parties clashed on the number of amendments that Republicans could offer. Republicans wanted to add dozens of amendments, an obvious delaying tactic, while Democrats tried to block all but their own amendments. In an earlier time, the two sides might have reached an agreement on a limited number of amendments, but not in this Senate, and certainly not right before this election, when everyone’s blood is up even more than usual. …

History will hold to account every member of Congress who refused to end this blatant injustice.

The Washington Post declares “fairness will have to wait.”

In the end, both sides may have gotten what they wanted. Democrats can argue in campaign ads and rallies over the next several weeks that Republicans blocked funding for the troops in a spiteful move to prevent fairness in the military. Republicans can just as easily blame Democrats for sabotaging the defense bill by clinging tightly to an extreme liberal agenda. The only losers? Common sense, fairness for gay and lesbian service members and the rational policy of making the best use of all Americans who want to help defend the country.

Outside the Beltway’s Doug Mataconis tears apart both sides of the aisle.

There’s election year politics going on over this issue on both sides of the aisle, of course. After all, the Democrats could, and should, have kept the immigration bill separate from a bill dealing with the budget for the Department of Defense. Republicans, on the other hand, are resting their opposition to proceeding forward on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on the phony issue of a Joint Chiefs of Staff study that is concerned not with whether to repeal the rule, but how that repeal will be implemented once it becomes law. Considering that the language of the repeal specifically says it doesn’t go into effect until after the study is completed, the objections of Senators like John McCain on that ground are entirely without merit.

The Human Rights Campaign, however, remains positive and forward-thinking.

“We are in fact quite bullish that it can get done in the lame duck. It has to get done,” said HRC spokesman Fred Sainz. “Today’s loss was because of a lack of time on the amendments process. Senator Reid has no way to get the bill off the floor if he didn’t limit the number of amendments. We are very hopeful that both parties can find a way to introduce amendments and get repeal passed.”

Ed O’Keefe over at The Washington Post agreed with the HRC’s optimistic outlook.

Gay rights advocates vowed to keep pressure on the Senate, with some believing they will have enough votes to end the ban if senators votes on the compromise in December. Several moderate Republicans have said they would vote to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” only after they review a Pentagon study of how repealing the ban might impact troop readiness and morale. The study is due to President Obama and senior military leaders on Dec. 1.

As usual, the Pentagon is being tight-lipped: “We have no comment on the legislative process. This was an internal procedural matter for the Senate.”

It’s still not clear how much time DADT has left on the judicial side. Earlier this month a federal judge in California declared the 1993 policy unconstitutional. The suit’s plaintiffs, the Log Cabin Republicans, asked the judge to issue an injunction banning DADT-based discharges; the Department of Justice must respond to that request this week. In the wake of the Senate defeat, the HRC is asking the DOJ not to appeal the ruling.

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Are You Reading What He’s Reading? [via The New York Times]

Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, “Freedom,” was likely to be a bestseller, but when news leaked that President Barack Obama had obtained a copy before its publication date, sales were pushed “over the top.” Obama has previously given sales bumps to Joseph O’Neill’s “Netherland” and Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead” after mentioning they are among his favorite reads. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work; in addition to “Freedom,” Obama picked up Brad Leithauser’s “A Few Corrections,” but it has achieved no extra notoriety.

Bones found at William and Mary are canine, not human [via The Williamsburg-Yorktown Daily]

Archaeologists digging on the campus of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. have discovered the bones of canines in a formal burial, the first known discovery of formal pet burial from the colonial period. “I don’t know of any instance of the formal, intentional interment of animals in the 18th century, either dogs or cats,” said Joanne Bowen, a research professor in the college’s Department of Anthropology and a zooarchaeologist with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “We find them in the 19th century. But in the Colonial period, people didn’t think of their dogs and cats in the same way we do now.”

More Mr Nice Guy: Why everyone loves Russell Tovey [via The Independent]

The Independent profiles British actor Russell Tovey, best known for his roles in the original run and movie adaptation of the popular play “The History Boys” and as a werewolf on the BBC’s “Being Human.” “Tovey is a bit Norman Wisdom, a bit Lee Evans, verbally and physically dextrous, all high-pitched splutters and facial gymnastics.” Tovey also discusses acting, his new sitcom, “Him & Her,” and the impact coming out had on his family.

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Please welcome to the blog contributor Bertel King, Jr. You can find out more about him at the About page.

The two things that stick with me the most from Obama’s speech last night both came at the end: that “some [American soldiers] were teenagers when the war began” and that the 4,000-plus people who died in Iraq had worked alongside the “nearly 1.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq.” To me, those are sad figures for what was ultimately a mistake. However, the decision to invade was not Obama’s, nor was the decision to withdraw, so I will search the speech for what I thought was worth commending the president:

His rhetoric.

Yes, what was one of the biggest attack points used by conservatives during the 2008 election is what I consider Obama’s best strength. The man can speak, and when he does it he speaks in a way that will not haunt America for years to come and ruin our credibility around the world. Following are a few bite-sized chunks of his speech.

Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders. What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

I felt that this claim was necessary. While I question those who declare that we have won in Iraq, I do see some reason to be proud of the military’s accomplishments thus far (though I do think it is ironic that a victory for our mighty military is to be able to get out of a mess that it started with some dignity intact). However, never again should the United States declare “Mission Accomplished” prematurely, and Obama has made it explicitly clear that there will still be combat ahead.

… I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.

This is a post-partisan moment for Obama. Politically, it’s safe to bash Bush — even conservatives do it. But Obama has chosen the high road. And in doing so, he has bucked against the conservative tactic of branding politicians who disagree as traitors, a tactic that helped Bush defeat Kerry in 2004 and prevented Democrats from gaining a majority in Congress at the time. Obama has chosen not only to stand up for his fellow Democrats, but to make the respectable decision to honor those politicians who disagree with his policies.

Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who-under the command of General David Petraeus — are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future. But, as was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.

Here Obama learns from the mistakes of Kennedy, Johnson and Bush. Afghanistan will not be another Vietnam. We cannot afford to stay in a country once we’ve realized it is hopeless. There are good things that can come out of the war in Afghanistan, but if it becomes clear that they’re not going to happen, or that the ability to accomplish them lies not in our hands but rather the Afghani’s, than we need to count our losses and leave. America has more to lose from its drudging economy and crippled credibility than from the Taliban at this point.

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform. As a result, too many middle class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.”

I think this paragraph sums up what has been and will be the Obama legacy. Bush was a war president, and while Obama has inherited both wars they are not where his priorities lie. His efforts have been on domestic issues — economic recovery, health care, tax cuts — and his ambitions remain domestic — energy reform, education reform, economic recovery. Obama hasn’t charted a new path when it comes to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he doesn’t have to. They will bring themselves to an end with time, and they will never be his babies. With the economy in the shape that it’s in, Obama has bigger fish to fry.

You can read the entire text of Obama’s Tuesday night speech here.

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President Barack Obama and the White House are gearing up to discuss the end of combat operations in Iraq tomorrow night during a primetime Oval Office address, Obama’s second. Monday Obama presented 11 Purple Hearts at Walter Reed Naval Hospital, and Vice President Joe Biden has flown to Iraq. Obama even intends to call his predecessor, George W. Bush, to discuss the end of combat operations for the war that began under Bush.

Just because the cameras have yet to roll doesn’t mean the internet is alight with commentators arguing about what Obama should or should not say. A sampling:

Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway in The Huffington Post:

With Americans formally retiring from their combat role in Iraq, we should be revisiting constitutional fundamentals. From the days of John Marshall, the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed Congress’ authority to define the scope of limited wars. Unless Obama begins to demonstrate his fidelity to this principle, he will be setting a terrible precedent for future presidents.

Abby Phillip at POLITICO:

The still-unsettled Iraqi state also complicates matters for Obama; while avoiding Bush’s famous “mission accomplished” declaration, the president must nevertheless signal a satisfactory conclusion to the second-longest war in American history. The White House has said Obama, speaking on prime-time TV for just the second time, will hit the same themes as in his weekly address last Saturday, thanking the troops and reiterating that “as a candidate for this office, I pledged I would end this war; as president, that’s what I’m doing.”

William Kristol in The Weekly Standard:

When you speak tomorrow, you might also do what you neglected to do Saturday: You might praise General Ray Odierno, who, with General David Petraeus, turned the war in Iraq around in an amazing feat of generalship, and then did a terrific job of managing, under your direction, a delicate drawdown and transfer of responsibility to our Iraqi partners. … And I hope you would also explain that, whatever one’s views of the decision to go to war, we now have a moral obligation and strategic opportunity to help a free and democratic Iraq succeed. This means emphasizing that we expect to work closely with Iraq in the future, and that we are open to stationing troops there. It means not repeating the vulgar and counter-productive emphasis in your Saturday address—”But the bottom line is this: the war is ending. Like any sovereign, independent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course. And by the end of next year, all our troops will be home.”

Julie Kirtz at Fox News:

White House officials say in President Obama’s Oval Office address he will talk about the way forward in a country once ruled by a dictator and highlight milestones that many doubted would ever be reached. … Seven years after President Bush said no outcome but victory would be accepted in Iraq, President Obama will say America and its allies have succeeded. Will the country rally around him as it did in 2003?

Michael Muskal in the Los Angeles Times:

The president will try to avoid the mistake made by former President Bush, who triumphantly claimed the military mission was accomplished in 2003, only to spend the rest of his time in office fighting a deadly war against Iraqi insurgents.

A.B. Stoddard in The Hill:

President Obama’s idea to call President George W. Bush on Tuesday before he speaks from the Oval Office about the end of combat operations in Iraq is a good one. And Obama has rightly concluded that the words “mission accomplished” won’t be appropriate for tomorrow night’s address. In what will be his second Oval Office address, Obama will thank our men and women in uniform — and their families — for their service and sacrifice in that more than seven-year-old war and acknowledge the challenges that remain.

Deborah White at About.com:

Americans long ago gave up believing President Bush regarding the Iraq War, and frankly, trusting President Obama to carry out promises made in his many uplifting speeches is getting to be a stretch, too, even for progressive Democrats. Americans are no longer naive about U.S. misadventures in Iraq. We’ll believe genuine withdrawal when we actually see it… not when a President proclaims “Mission Accomplished” or makes pretty pronouncements from the Oval Office.

Jill Lawrence in Politics Daily:

Here are the top two words I want to hear President Obama say in his Oval Office speech about Iraq: Never again. … I want to hear about first principles from him – principles that determine when we go to war. I want to hear about fact-based decision-making – why we go to war. I want to hear about smart planning and contingency planning and choosing competent people to lead us into, and out of, potential quagmires. In short, I want to know I can once again trust my government.

Aaron Gee in American Thinker (thereby making the grammatical errors even funnier):

Almost every American wants our troops to come home victorious, and President Obama will capitalize on that sentiment tomorrow night.  It’s worth reminding folks that Obama was one of those Americans who wanted to bring troops home regardless of victory.  No amount of kind words and clever phrases will change that fact.  When one examines the mess our economy is in, or the stubborn refusal to acknowledge that the surge worked, you realize that President Obama hasn’t been right very often.  While President Obama may not have been right very often, but he was clever at convincing people that he was something he wasn’t (a moderate healer).  Look for that type of cleverness in this speech.

Peter Feaver in Foreign Policy:

To my ears at least, he did not do well in the preliminary quiz, this week’s radio address, which focused on Iraq. He repeated the gimmicks, fudged on the mission going forward, had nothing to say about the challenges that lay before us, pretended no national security interests were at stake in Iraq, and came dangerously close to reducing current and former military personnel to a government benefits enterprise. Only a stray phrase noting in passing that the troops fought “for the defense of our freedom and security” hinted at the important matters left unaddressed. Perhaps he will address them in the big speech.

Sarah Palin on Twitter:

Tues:Obama Iraq speech;poor leadership if this fierce opponent of the surge can’t give credit where credit’s due.Credit due GW,McCain,troops

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